I’ve had a post brewing about parenting and how very full my heart has been this week as I’ve watched Joshua and Emma play and I planned to write it tonight. But then I logged onto Facebook and got caught up in a conversation about spanking, of all things, on Katie‘s wall, and before I knew it I was in tears at my desk.
Mostly happy tears, but still. Tears. Suddenly I was thinking about my Dad and a time when I was 12 and crying. So instead of a sappy post about parenting, you get one about my Dad. Which is sort of about parenting.
It was a Saturday night. There was a singing at the church to benefit my cousin’s mom who was battling cancer. She was living with us at the time and even though the singing was for her mom, neither of us wanted to be at the church. I mean, we were 12. So we did the next best thing we could think of and rounded up a group of friends to go with us.
We sat about 8 rows from the back on the right hand side. We listened to the songs. We passed notes. We stifled laughter. And then someone sneezed. It was the funniest sneeze I’d ever heard in my life and all the tension of trying not to be loud just bubbled out. I started giggling. So did everyone else. Unfortunately for us this was all timed to occur just as the music quieted down for an altar call.
One of the deacons, sitting 5 rows ahead of us and on the left hand side of the aisle, got up from his seat and walked over to where we were sitting and told us all to quiet down.
My Daddy saw the whole thing.
After the singing was over, he walked up to my cousin and me and told us he’d deal with us when he got home. We loaded up in the van and Mama dropped our friends off at their various houses and we went home to wait.
12 year olds aren’t great at waiting and anticipating punishment, in case you were wondering. Their minds, or maybe just my mind, will go a million miles a minute, particularly if this is the first time this parent has ever punished this child. And this was the first time my Daddy had ever threatened punishment.
So my cousin and I, after we arrived home, devised a plan. We thought surely a spanking was coming because the deacon had gotten onto us. That was a big deal! But Daddy had never spanked me before. And while my cousin was living with us and my parents were responsible for her, surely he wouldn’t spank her, too, right?
But what if?
Well, what if turned into us deciding that Charmin toilet paper was our savior. We changed out of our church dresses and into shorts and t-shirts and we raided the linen closet and stuffed rolls of Charmin everywhere we could think. A roll for each of our shoulders, four rolls each on our butts, and then we sat down to wait.
(Remember the commercial where the girls want to play football but they don’t have any shoulder pads so they suit up with Charmin and hang with the boys? That was our inspiration.)
We were sitting when Daddy walked in that evening. We thought by sitting down, we’d have the greatest chance of maybe avoiding any punishment beyond a lecture. If we showed him how good and well-behaved we were, surely he’d understand that the sneeze was funny! We couldn’t help it!
“Y’all go into your room and I’ll be in there in a minute…”
So we got up and waddled through the kitchen careful not to drop any of our padding along the way. And we waited. And waited. And waited.
We were made to give each other two swats with the paddle and sit with Mama on the second pew for the rest of eternity. I’m pretty sure I sat next to my Mama for the next 5 years, but it was okay because she had a full stock of peppermints and Werther’s Originals in her purse.
Years later I learned that while we were waiting, Daddy was busy trying to get his composure because the sight of us stuffed with rolls of Charmin had caused him to lose any anger he’d managed to hang on to after leaving the church that night. He spent a good five minutes laughing while he figured out what to do with us.
My Daddy wasn’t a man who was quick to anger. In fact, I only ever saw him angry twice in my life. His lack of emotion was as infuriating as it was inspirational. And tonight I found myself crying about this memory and thinking about the look on his face when he walked in the door, where we were sitting, the orientation of the furniture. Every speck of it is just right there in my mind like it was yesterday.
Grief is weird, you guys. Really, really weird. My best friend lost her sister about a month before Daddy died and she called the other day in tears because out of nowhere she was gobsmacked with the reality of the fact that her sister wouldn’t be here to celebrate Christmas with her. I told her she should consider getting a plant because the plants I’ve managed to keep alive since Daddy’s funeral have been an extension of him somehow. Maybe a plant would help her too.
Boy, was I stupid.